Scarlet Heroes

February 24, 2014

Every time a POC focal rpg comes out… I WANT to like it.  I want it to not be fucked up.  Seriously.

Sadly, Scarlet Heroes takes pretty smart modern game design to “old school gaming” then pours heaps of problematic representation on top of it.

SH aims to be an asian themed pulp sword and sorcery kind of game.  There’s two ways one could go about this – take the many, many asian folklore tales and modern tales and pull from the very close parallels to modern pulp (wuxia, evil decadent governments, magic, secret societies, etc.) or…

…one could take the really problematic projections of “oriental” that came from the western pulp era.

Of the human societies presented:

– The fake Japanese (with a Chinese title) are literal demon worshippers who push their citizens to do evil to commit their souls to demons at death

– The fake Chinese run by a “Mandarinate” (um…an ethnicity might run a government but isn’t a government structure…so…) have an Emperor who is SO HOMOSEXUAL (Super caps to let you know to fear teh gheyz) he refuses to even to try to father an heir, leading to political instability…

– An evil fake Chinese country of evil wizards who engage in every vice and the picture shows the classic Yellow Peril dude sitting on a throne while attended to by many half naked women (many white women) …

– There’s two white societies – the fake Vikings and the fake Germans, because in a game about POC, you gotta have white people

– A group that sounds a goddamn lot like fake Jews

– And the rest of the human lands, we are told, is like South East Asia, but aside from pulling from some of the SEA monsters, nothing else is really explained

Then there’s a bunch of other minor by comparison but still notable red flags – there’s a woman in samurai armor but dressed up courtly hair (aka, “This is all we’ve seen of Japanese women hair” stereotype) which seems really weird.   There’s a Black woman who shows up in a couple of the pictures, but no real mention where she was supposed to come from or if she’s supposed to be one of the missing SEA groups in this setting.  All the spells have really long ornate names which is the key sign something is “oriental”.

This is the thing: when people’s idea of POC as heroes is “Wouldn’t it be awesome to play as the horrific stereotypes we threw on you as part of colonialism and war propaganda?” I’m having a real hard time seeing the fun escapism in this.

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